The pumpkin pie is a Thanksgiving Day tradition and consists of pumpkin-based custard, ranging in color from orange to brown, baked in a single pie shell and sometimes with a top crust.
The pie is generally flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, cloves and ginger and frequently topped with whipped cream.
The etymology of the word pumpkin dates back to Ancient Greece, where the fruit was called pepon. That was changed to pompon by the French and the English subsequently started calling it pumpion or pompion.
The fruit is native to the continent of North America, with the oldest evidence of pumpkin-related seeds dating back between 7000 B.C. and 5500 B.C., in Mexico. Northeastern Native American tribes grew squash and pumpkins, roasting or boiling them for eating. They also brought the fruit as gifts to the first settlers, who exported the new delicacy to France and then Tudor England.
Sometime after that the fruit began to be used as fillers for pie; in the 19th century the pie was made by stuffing the whole pumpkin with apples, spices and sugar and baking it. The pumpkin pie was then introduced to New England.
In 1651, Francois Pierre la Varenne, a famous French chef and the author of one of the most important cookbooks of the 17th century, wrote one other called Le Vrai Cuisinier Francois (The True French Cook). It was translated into English in 1653 and it contains one of the first, perhaps, true recipes for pumpkin pie.
It took more than 100 years after la Varenne for the first American cookbook to written and published in that country and it was written by Amelia Simmons. It was particularly special for another reason - it was the first one to contain and develop recipes for foods native to America. Simmons pumpkin pies were baked in crusts similar to the ones made today.
While it would be wonderful to know just who made the very first pumpkin pie ever, the next best course is to simply enjoy this delightful dessert and its colorful history.